HC Deb 18 May 1971 vol 817 cc1074-6
Q4. Mr. Marten

asked the Prime Minister what plans he has to make a Commonwealth tour this year.

The Prime Minister

Since taking office, I have visited Canada, Cyprus, Pakistan, India, Malaysia and Singapore. I have at present no plans for further visits.

Mr. Marten

In spite of that, when my right hon. Friend visits President Pompidou, will he stress to him the firm and sincere belief of the whole House in the Commonwealth, which my right hon. Friend has done very much to foster, and, at the same time, stress our belief in the use of the English language so as to avoid misunderstandings about French translations?

The Prime Minister

The President of France is well aware of the close connection of Britain with the Commonwealth—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speak up."] Hon. Gentlemen should listen. As for the English language, automatically it becomes an official working language of the Community if we become a member.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

Before the right hon. Gentleman visits the sugar-prod-acing countries, which are members of the Commonwealth, or New Zealand, will he address himself to the callous indifference which appears to have been shown by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to those countries in Brussels?

The Prime Minister

That comment is thoroughly unjustified. This matter was dealt with in detail yesterday when my right hon. and learned Friend described the form of the assurance. What is important for the Caribbean countries is that it has now been accepted that they should be given the opportunity of association under Part Four of the Treaty, which governs all their products and gives them very satisfactory terms for dealing with the Community. Included in those products is sugar, and my right hon. and learned Friend dealt in detail with this subject yesterday.

Mr. Adley

If my right hon. Friend visits some of the Commonwealth countries, especially those in the Caribbean, will he take a long look at the role of sugar in their economies and its relative importance in comparison with tourism? It would be unfortunate if people were left with the impression that sugar is the only future for some of these countries.

The Prime Minister

That is true, and the Caribbean countries have themselves been trying to diversify for a long time, in many cases with considerable success. This emphasises the importance of the opportunity of association under Part Four of the Treaty, because it is not confined to one product. It deals with the economy of those countries as a whole.

Mr. Milne

Is the Prime Minister aware that, when the fate of the Commonwealth is being dealt with, should we enter the Common Market, the Commonwealth countries to which he refers will be on the outside looking in and will not be part of those negotiations in the 1974–75 period? This is a betrayal of the Commonwealth at this stage in our history.

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman is completely unjustified in using such words as "betrayal", which in no way describe our policy in the negotiations. If anyone had given any consideration or examination to the Community, he would know the close relationship which exists between member countries and the associated States and the part that those associated States play in the negotiations under the Yaoundé Convention.

Mr. Peart

Is the Prime Minister aware that sugar is still the main prop for most countries in the Caribbean and, therefore, that any depression there would have serious social consequences? On the question of association, is the Prime Minister further aware that, in reply to the right hon. Member the Father of the House, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said on a previous occasion in this House that association would not give us a specific guarantee?

The Prime Minister

As I explained to the House last Thursday and as my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster emphasised yesterday, when the Yaoundé Convention comes to be renegotiated—and existing arrangements carry on until then —we shall be a member of the Community with our full rights and, therefore, we shall be able to negotiate the next Convention from inside the Community if we are a member. This must be the main safeguard.